Healthy Food Tracker for Kids

Mulling over the challenge of “designing an experience where schools can influence students’ food choices when they’re on campus.”

The following documentation is of my research and design exploration process.

I started by setting a loose structure around an evolving plan, dependent on the information that was discovered along the way. I made it a point to identify key people and topics to start with.

People

  1. Jade Herrick
  2. Amy Vu

Topics

  1. Nutrition initiatives in school
  2. The Psychology of play
  3. How children learn

Resource 1: Amy Vu — Nutritionist

My most formative conversation was the one with Amy. Drawing upon her hands on experience in implementing healthy eating initiatives within underserved communities, I was able to understand the essence of not only nutrition education, but also the impact of parents influences on a child’s eating habits during their most formative years.

Having limited experience with children, this information guided me in the thesis of my design solution.

Resource 2: Jade Herrick — Stay at home mom of two

My conversation with Jade validated a lot of learning and development behavior that Amy had observed in the classroom. Furthermore, Jade walks me through methods of influencing and disciplining her kids, and emphasizes the importance of positive reinforcement. Motivating > chastising. For the most part, her children are unfussy and she does not have major issues getting her kids to eat healthy.

Problemset Definition

From the research, I defined the problem set/question to be: How can we influence kids to eat healthy, what role can schools, parents, and peers play in adapting this kind of behavior?

Thus, I develop a thesis.

Thesis

If most of a child’s tastebuds are developed in the first 5 years of life, parental figures and behaviors quickly become the primary influence that guides a child’s eating habits; the educators’ and their peers behavior becoming secondary and tertiary. In the most ideal, a child would adopt and bring in prior / positive eating habits into their classrooms. In a non-ideal environment, the child would have limited knowledge and physical exposure to a healthy palette. The proposed educational app experience would hope to (eventually) appeal to their physical choices through a digital lead.

The experience would serve 3 sets of users, the educator, parent, and child — in two environments, at home and in the classroom.

Each child will be at different comprehension levels between the ages 0–6. The following interfaces are meant to appeal to but mainly operate under the assistance of an adult. In the instance of free play, where there is a lack or less of direct adult involvement, the child would still derive pleasure through auditory, visual, and tactile senses. (Watching and hearing the interface react to their motions).

Below are the beginnings of sketches (whimsical drawings) that eventually lead to wireframes.

In efforts of capturing the essence of childlike wonder and curiosity, I drew funny characters to remind myself of the mental lightness that kids embody when engaging with games, colors, and shapes. I tried to distill the complexity of my thoughts and research to match and level out with the simplicity of childlike wonder. (A method being, enlisting the epic “Pop 4 Kids” Spotify playlist).

Ideas that came along during this process:
1. Lyrical songs and karaoke of fruit and vegetable themes
2. Having a child record their voice or doodle a drawing and presenting these digital artifacts back to them
3. Creating a Fruit & Vegetable themed sticker and or SEED packs

If a class were to collaboratively explore all the “levels” of a specific fruit/vegetable (unlock all the available information re: specific f/v), a pack of seeds would be sent to the classroom. This idea was contingent on school garden initiatives, backed by studies that state, the more involved the child is in understanding their food source, the more excited and incentivized they were to engage in a healthy lifestyle

I formalize some of these ideas into product thoughts and interfaces. From the sketching process, I determine that an onboarding process will be needed for parents and educators. In the interest of time, I wireframe and consider brief inputs that would help the app present a personalized experience for both parent and child.

Interaction Design

As a first visual draft, I created a simple activity that a young child could use autonomously or with parental guidance. The fruit/vegetable character gets dragged along its starting alphabet to help the child contextualize these characters to real world applications. The completion of the interaction also rewards the child with an additional “delightful” (aka unexpected) result. In this instance, the kiwi’s butt falls off, revealing more of itself as a character and as a fruit.

In this interface, the child is to match a specific fruit/vegetable to a real world (in this case, broccoli:trees). The purpose of this interface is to add an additional touchpoint to the 10–12 exposures equation that is required to get a child acquainted/comfortable with a new food.

TBC

Several expansions to this idea:
1. Multiple layers of activities. The more “levels” a child unlocks, the more detail gets revealed about that specific fruit/vegetable personality.

2. Personalized success messages depending on specific interests that parents indicated in the onboarding flow. 
Ex: If broccoli is known to “form body tissue and bone” and the child’s interests include soccer, the success/congratulatory messaging could be presented as, “Broccoli helps you grow stronger to be a better soccer player” or “Broccoli helps you become stronger, just like your favorite animal, jaguars!” etc.


Learnings & Takeaways

This exercise was extremely enlightening! I had limited working knowledge of nutrition education and childhood development prior to these research efforts. Quite frankly, I think a lot of these strategies and psychologies that apply to the way children learn maintain relevance into adulthood.